Milan: Frida Kahlo at Mudec

Frida in New York, 1946 by Nickolas Muray


“Frida Kahlo beyond the myth” opened at MUDEC in February to 3 June 2018; an exhibition that can move you. Life, love and pain. Intensity, talent and capacity for resilience.  Transforming pain into beauty and power to react!


It’s a really great event, showing fantastic and complex works. Let me just give you some info to get closer to the artist reasons why.



is born on 6 July 1907 in Coyoacán, a Mexico City district; her father is a Jewish Hungarian photographer and her mother a wealthy Mexican woman. Since she is a little girl she shows a strong personality and artistic inclinations.

Unfortunately, she is to have a very tormented life due to a spinal defect and a very bad accident that crashes her back when she is very young. She gets well slowly, all alone she reads and starts painting and drawing. Later she joins the communist party and there she meets Diego Rivera, famous Mexican painter 21 years older than her. Love sprouts and they get married.

Theirs is a very passionate yet turbulent story. An overwhelming love made of art and mind sharing yet doomed by the impossibility of having children and the idealistic will to affirm their own individuality and own independence within the couple hence their freedom: Diego with many love affairs and Frida with Trotsky and later André Breton.

Her art accompanies her all along her life, showing the life of her inner world. Unfortunately her health condition keeps getting so worst to required, at one stage, her leg amputation. She never gives up and continues to create. She dies on 13 July 1954 for a lung embolism at the age of 47.


What she wants to say

She has always had much to say: a whole inner world to convey. The exhibition path aims at witnessing its evolution. The paintings are organized according to four guidelines which allow to interpret transversally her work. Woman, earth, politics and pain.

Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with braid, 1941
  • Woman, for Frida means to show her femininity openly. Her body becomes a manifest of inner research and self-affirmation. Woman is also being in a state of permanent tension between, on one hand, a desired motherhood frustrated by the impossibility to give birth and, on the other hand, its powerful return made of emotions aesthetically transposed in the birth of her opuses.  The feminine is not just about femininity, but it becomes the symbol of fragility, suffering and wonderful human sensitivity.
  • Earth is related to the affirmation of her own “Mexicanity”. She constantly uses pre-columbian symbols and archetypes, to which she gives new semantic nuances.
    Monkeys, symbols of lust, get humanized as protecting guardians; dogs, guardian of the underworld, become an icon of resistance to life caducity; Mesoamerican necklaces, symbols of the continuity with the past, become the affirmation of an unsettled feminine; the refined hairdo and headdresses, symbol of external beauty, are signs of inner resiliency and imperturbability facing the impetus of pain and disease.
  • Politics for Frida is what can convey emotions of social resiliency without turning to ideology but appealing instead to the realm of incompleteness: where justice and injustice, good and evil, individual freedom and social control meet and often fight. The body is again a symbol: a mean of atonement and catharsis to explore those fights both in the specific context of post-revolutionary Mexico and at a more universal extent.
  • Pain is for Frida both something real because of her disease and at the same time something elusive even shifty. It creates image in transit which swing between beauty and macabre, sacrality and perversion.
    Those of sorrow are always strong and powerful representations able to destroy what they find on their way. Symbol of life running into symbol of death, risking their sanity. Though, from Frida’s images new archetypical combinations seem to arise, something not thinkable before, bearer of emotional resiliency and redeeming regeneration.


To conclude

The exhibition path ends with the display of various textual and visual documents to the sound of the song “Diego and I” by Brunori SAS storytelling love through emotional rhythms and tones: Frida’s life comes to mind, recalled also by her words written in light types on dark walls: “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”

The turbulent love with Diego Rivera and, among others, the affair he has with Frida’s sister Cristina leave a sour mark on her life, along with that terrible accident that crashes her back when she is young and leads her body towards a slow and relentless decay. “I hope the exit is joyful – Frida says before dying – and I hope never to return”.

While we walk through the last room towards the exit, the sharp bitterness of her words seems to bounce off suffocating borders of finitude, yet as we recall the path we’ve just walked through we may see it fading, freeing itself in celebrating the constant and painless return of the art of a woman who has been able to affirm her own existence intensely, always and no matter what.




The exhibition is curated by Diego Sileo, previously curator at PAC (Contemporary Art Pavilion), gathering international collections of Frida Kahlo – from Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City to Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection; unpublished documentary material from the Casa Azul archives, Isolda Kahlo archives and Miguel N. Lira, Alejandro Gomez Arias archives; pictures by Diego Rivera and the photographerswho portrayed Frida during her life, among the others: Dora Maar, Nickolas Muray, Lola e Manuel Ä‚lvarez Bravo, Carl Van Vechten, Leo Matiz, Guillermo DĂ vila.


Where and when

Frida Kahlo. Beyond the myth
Mudec – Museum of Cultures
From 1 February to 3 June 2018

Time and days: Monday 2.30 – 7.30 p.m.; Tuesday – Wednesday 09.30 a.m. – 7.30 p.m; Tuesday – Friday 09.30 a.m. – 22.30 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday 9.00 a.m. – 22.30 p.m.

Further information: